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  • Writer's pictureRae Story

Nature and ageing well in towns and cities – why the natural environment matters

Nature is good for us!

(but we are not so good for Nature - that is my bit!)

A fantastically ambitious interdisciplinary research project presents it findings today at Whitworth Art Gallery. This research looked at Green (and Blue!) Spaces and how they impact on the health and well-being of our increasing and ageing city residents across the globe. Lots of interesting findings that we might expect - but now they are in a report that we can point to and quote and hopefully more people will listen. The Nature and Ageing Well in Towns and Cities Report is now available and well worth a proper read. Please see more at their website:

some notes from the day:

  • Dementia Walks: If we want to get more benefits from the walks then we need to do more than just put people in that environment - it needs to be interactive with opportunities and activities to take notice and make meaningful contact with nature.

  • Green Infrastructure seems to be a bridge between competing narratives about developing different tupes of cities and communities.

  • 80% of time of those aged 75 and over is spent at home or in their immediate environment

  • Social Inequalities: Greater Manchester neighbourhoods with a lower abundance of green cover tend to have higher social deprivation agreeing with previous studies for England (although seems to be a need for more research to unpick causal links and correlations)

  • Who has the most Urban Green and Blue Space?

  • The least affluent neighbourhoods have lower proportion of green and blue cover, less tree canopy, smaller garens and markedly less public incidental space, only slightly less park space but with lower green and blue space.

  • Principle 6 Acknowledge that GI is a system involving both people and the natural environment

  • Nature spaces are homes to wildlife and some things that make these spaces more accessible to humans make them less hospitable to wildlife (night street lighting etc).

  • For protection of wildlife and nature reserves we may actually want less human access which can damage natural habitats and environments. We need to be aware of making the conversation around GI all about human benefit and convenience and think more widely about how we can access and live in harmony with nature for mutual benefit.

It was wonderful to spend the day at the Whitworth Art Gallery and Park:

The Whitworth's Albert Einstein Garden is part of the Silent Spaces program - you can visit this small garden (lower floor, on the left as you come in from the 'art garden' just past the stairs to go up to first floor. Silent "Spaces Fridays, 10am-12pmSundays, 10am-12pm Free, no need to book Take time out and enjoy the restorative benefits of being peaceful in a green space.All we ask is: No phones, no talking and no cameras."

In the Epstein Garden there was the most incredible aroma coming from this evergreen plant (above left) apparently called 'Christmas Box' or 'Sarcococca' bush

The Whitworth now have a fabulous map of their outdoor sculptures which is well worth picking up from the main desk in reception and having a wonder. We had a great tour from Francine Hayfron the parks inspiring Cultural Park Keeper which illuminated many of the sculptures I have passed by for years and which have never really spoken to me in the same way. Today my eyes were opened!

And the visual minutes were interesting to reflect on:

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